It is easy to discriminate against people with deformities in this country. People make them feel like it was their fault that they were deformed. Even religious organisations discriminate against them. Yes, it is a common knowledge that people with any form of physical deformities and disabilities may not be priests and pastors. I even heard that in those days, deformed people cannot be offered as sacrifices to the gods, not even as slaves of the gods – the gods wanted perfect able-bodied people. Maybe that is why Nigerians still treat people with deformities and disabilities with disdain.
The discrimination against the disabled has found its way into recruitment processes. Private sectors avoid these people and find reasons not to recruit them. They made sure no one knows their main reason for not offering them any positions in their organisations and in most cases, people overlook that without passing any judgement.
But the one that is going to affect us most is when the government starts discriminating against citizens like this. It is quite understood that private sectors are in search of those that will increase their profits, but it makes no sense when government agencies start sieving these people out during their recruitment processes. What is more, physical deformity, or rather malformation is today treated as a disqualifier in Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment process.
I was surprised to see a post concerning the selection process of NIS in their ongoing recruitment process. To be double sure of what I read, I went to their recruitment portal and there it was, written in red ink, and titled “Applicants with any of the Following Physical Challenges Need not Apply”. The “Physical Challenges” listed are:
- Impediment in speech (stammer/dumb)
- Gross malformation of teeth
- Knocked knees
- Bow legs
- Flat foot
- Limb legs
- Bent arms/deformed arms/fracture
- Defective eyesight (squint-eye, cross-eye, one-eyed and total blindness)
- Amputation of any part of physical body
- Hearing impaired (deaf)
- Hunched back
- Medical challenges
- Any physical deformity not mentioned,
- Note that due to the rigor of the physical exercise in the recruitment process, women with pregnancy need NOT apply.
Looking at the list given above, one could not help but wonder at the rationale behind most of the items listed there. For instance, item 16 is quite understandable because pregnant women may lose their pregnancy during the recruitment and training processes, so it is ok for them to stay out of it. This item may irk feminists, who may demand exemption of pregnant women from some of those rigorous exercises, like push-ups, press-ups, sit-ups and the rest of them. But then, until such changes are made, pregnant women need to stay off the recruitment exercises.
Another thing that makes sense in that list is medical challenges, because it may not be advisable for somebody that has health issues to work in stressful environments. But NIS didn’t specify what “Medical Challenges” constitutes.
Aside from pregnant women and people with health challenges, every other item listed does not hold water. For instance, a person that stammers can be trained to speak fluently without the usual breaks. But then, what has stammering got to do with NIS? If lecturing and teaching that involves passing on knowledge verbally can accommodate this sort of person, why won’t NIS?
I understand that NIS is a paramilitary that needs agile people and all, but disqualifying people based on physical malformation is uncalled for. The demand for minimum height and weight of applicants is still an issue most people are yet to accept, but what is the essence of asking people with malformed teeth, cross eye and impaired speech not to apply?
Another thing I’m seeing in this list is that NIS failed to specify the degree of malformation in some cases. For instance, the issue of k-leg, knocked knee and bow-leg are not clear. What degree of k-leg should not apply? Is it those that couldn’t walk because of the shape of their legs, or is it anyone whose leg is not as straight as a pencil? Things like this should be made clear, because a lot of good runners I know back then in secondary school had bow legs. But here, NIS is rejecting them, for reasons best known to its officials.
I am not here to tell NIS what to do, but they have to understand that they need to review their recruitment requirements. NIS is not a fashion house that needs perfect models for its runway show. They should therefore concentrate on people that will deliver their jobs well, squint-eyed or not.